Welcome to Notebooking Across the USA, a series of unit studies covering each state in the U.S. in order of admission to the union. You can find the landing page for this series with links to each states unit study as they are published, along with tips, suggestions, and recommended resources for this series here: Notebooking Across the USA. These unit studies are written with homeschool students grades 3-8 in mind.
The most recommended resource for this series is the USA States Pack, and while I believe it will be very helpful if you will be studying all of the states, it is not required. If you do wish to purchase the pack, use the code benandmeUSA for a 25% discount.
New Mexico Unit Study
Home to the oldest state capital in the United States, New Mexico became the 47th state to join the union on January 6, 1912. Located in the southwestern part of the United States, New Mexico is bordered by Colorado to the north; Oklahoma and Texas to the east; Texas and the international border to Mexico to the south; and Arizona to the west. It is the 5th largest state covering 121,598 square miles.
Typically New Mexico has light precipitation giving it a mild continental climate. Visitors and residents enjoy sunshine with low humidity. The climate across the New Mexico mountain ranges are similar to the climate of the Rocky Mountains.
Capital: Santa Fe
Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the U.S. dating back to 1610.
Population: 2,084,651 million (36th largest in the U.S.)
Nickname: The Land of Enchantment
New Mexico’s nickname was made official in 1999 commemorating the beautiful scenery and the expansive history of the state.
Motto: Crescit eundo – Latin for “It grows as it goes.”
Agriculture: Sheep, lambs, hogs, dairy, cattle ranching, hay, pecans, greenhouse products, chili peppers, onions and wheat.
Industry: Computer chips, telephone equipment, chemicals, food products and printed materials.
Mining: Coal, copper, petroleum, uranium, gold, silver, and natural gas.
Have your students color and label an outline map of New Mexico. Include the state capital of Santa Fe. Also include the largest city of Albuquerque. Be sure to include the Rocky Mountains and National Parks like White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, and Bandelier National Park. Include a few of the rivers that run through New Mexico: the Canadian River, the Rio Grande, the San Juan River, and the Vermejo River.
The state flag of New Mexico was adopted in 1925. It consists of a field of bright yellow with the symbol of the sun from the Zia tribe in the center. The sun symbol is red in color. The red and yellow represent the colors of old Spain. The four points representing the sun’s rays are symbolic of the four points of the compass, the four seasons of the year, and the four seasons of life to name a few. These are just a few of the things that the Zia tribe hold sacred.
The official state seal of New Mexico was adopted in 1913. It contains symbols that honor New Mexico’s history. Encircling the seal are the words “Great Seal of the State of New Mexico” and “1912” – the year that New Mexico joined the union. Inside the circle is an American eagle with its wings spread as if protecting a Mexican eagle. The Mexican eagle is holding a snake in it’s mouth and a cactus in it’s talons. These items represent an ancient myth from the Aztec people. They also represent the traditions of Spain, Mexico, and the Native American tribes that once lived in New Mexico. The American eagle is holding arrows in its talons. There is a banner underneath the birds stating the state motto.
New Mexico State Bird: The Greater Roadrunner
The Great Roadrunner was adopted as the official state bird in 1949.
New Mexico State Flower: Yucca Plant Blossom
In 1927, New Mexico officially adopted the blossom of the yucca plant as the state flower. The plant was chosen by a group of school children and the choice was agreed upon by the New Mexico Federation of Women’s Clubs. The leaves of the flower are useful in making ropes, sandals, and baskets.
New Mexico State Tree: Piñon pine
The Pinon Pine became the official state tree of New Mexico in 1948.
State Song: “O Fair New Mexico” (click here to listen to the state song and to see the lyrics)
Adopted in 1917, “O Fair New Mexico” was written by Elizabeth Garrett.
Learn about New Mexico’s state government here: Government
Flora and Fauna
Trees common to New Mexico are the Northern Catalpa, One-seed Juniper, Bigtooth Maple, Bur Oak, Shumard Oak, Austrian Pine, Boxelder, Fremont Cottonwood, Lacebark Elm, Goldenraintree, and the Kentucky Coffeetree.
Mammals commonly found in New Mexico include the Long-tailed Weasel, Cougar, Coyote, Bobcat, Black-tailed jackrabbit, Silver Haired Bat, Raccoon, Striped skunk, Rock Squirrel, Grey Fox, and the Deer Mouse.
Common birds include Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Northern Bobwhite, Ring-necked Pheasant, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, American Bittern, Little Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Turkey Vulture, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Purple Gallinule, and the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch.
New Mexico History
The Pueblo Indians, along with several other Indian tribes, were the first inhabitants of the area that is now known as New Mexico. In 1540, Francisco Vazquez de Coronado of Spain, arrived in the area in search of cities made of gold. He did not find gold, however, he claimed the land for Spain and New Mexico, as a portion of Mexico, became a colony of Spain. The Spanish were Catholic and wanted to teach the Native Americans their beliefs. Spanish rule lasted for approximately 91 years until the Pueblo people revolted against Spain and pushed them out of the area temporarily. During the 1700s tension grew between the Spanish and the Pueblo as the Spanish came back to the area. In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain. At this time the province of New Mexico had begun trading with Missouri on the Santa Fe Trail, one of the major ways for residents of the United States to travel west. Texas and Mexico began to disagree concerning the border between them in 1846. This resulted in the Mexican-American War which lasted until 1848 when the United States won. New Mexico became a territory of the U.S. as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1850. At that time, the New Mexico territory consisted of all the land between Texas and California. As the land between Mexico and the new territory known as New Mexico was divided those living there had the option to remain in the part that was now U.S. land, becoming United States Citizens. This citizenship gave them full voting rights which was unusual because at that time, only white men could vote in the U.S. The Mexicans that stayed and became U.S. citizens were considered to be “legally” white. It was not long before Texas pulled out of the territory to become their own state. This left the New Mexico land consisting of Arizona, New Mexico, and a portion of Colorado. Santa Fe was established as the capital city.
When the Civil War broke out New Mexico was once again claimed by both Mexico and the United States. Union troops were stationed in New Mexico and several of the Civil War battles were fought there mostly against the Native Americans that lived there. Over the next few years, the Navajo tribe was forced out of Arizona and relocated to New Mexico. At the 1800s ended, the New Mexico territory became home to outlaws, gamblers, and thieves. This gave the territory the name the “Wild West”. Eventually progress made it’s way to New Mexico by way of the railroad. With the railroad came more settlers;, miners looking for gold, silver, and coal; cattle ranchers; sheep farmers; and public education was growing at an astounding rate. Oil was also discovered in New Mexico in 1910. The population grew over the next few years and on January 6, 1912, New Mexico joined the union as the 47th state.
During World War I, New Mexico sent over 17,000 men into service for the U.S. Having the opportunity to sign up for the war effort, helped the Mexicans that had chosen to stay in the U.S. an opportunity to show their allegiance to the U.S. During World War II, the thousands of New Mexico residents fought on behalf of the U.S. Allies. New Mexico is, perhaps, known for one of the most famous war efforts credited to the U.S. In Los Alamos, New Mexico a research facility was built for the purpose of creating the first atomic bomb in the world. This opened the way for New Mexico to become a driving force in the research and development of nuclear, solar, and geothermal energy.
Other Uses for Notebooking Pages
dictation and copywork
draw and write
vocabulary and spelling words
recording reading lists
plant and animal classification
Road Trip New Mexico
If you have a chance to visit the state of New Mexico, be sure you don’t miss these sites. If you won’t be visiting, take a virtual field trip by clicking on the name of the site. Have your student create Travel Journal notebooking pages to record what they learn.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park has over 100 caves and is located in the Chihuahuan Desert. The largest cave is known as Big Cave. It measures 3,800 feet long by 600 feet wide. Visitors can explore the many caves via guided, or self-guided, tours. A popular attraction is seeing the hundreds of Brazilian free-tailed bats that exit Carlsbad Cavern each evening in the late summer and early fall.
Also located in the Chihuahuan Desert, White Sands National Monument is known for it’s white sand dunes. The dunes are made of rare white gypsum. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are among the activities available to visitors.
Bandelier National Monument gives a glimpse back into the life of the Pueblo people that lived there many years ago. Take a look at these virtual tours to learn more about the Bandelier National Monument.
The Sandia Peak Tramway, or Tram – as it is most often called, transports passengers to the top of Sandia Peak and back down again. While at the top of the peak, visitors can hike or even bike to explore the area. The span of the tram is the third longest in the world.
Petroglyph National Monument preserves and protects one of the largest sites featuring petroglyphs in North America. The carvings were done by Native American and early settlers from Spain over 500 years ago.
The museum honors the life and art of Georgia O’Keeffe.
When visiting the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum visitors will learn more about the history, science and art of ballooning.
Located at the intersection of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona; the Four Corners Monument is the only location in the United States where four states meet at one point.
Visit the only remaining inhabited Native American community. Approximately 150 people live within the Pueblo full time.
Famous People from New Mexico
William Hanna (animator and cartoon artist best known for “The Flintstones”, “Tom and Jerry”)
Clyde Tombaugh (astronomer who discovered Pluto)
Dorothy G. Page (the “Mother of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race“)
Geronimo (chief of the Native American Chiricahua Apaches)
Georgia O’Keeffe (artist known for her painting of the New Mexico landscape and large flowers)
Edwin H. Land (inventor of the Polaroid camera)
Interesting Facts about New Mexico
The city of Santa Fe is the highest capital city in the U.S. resting at 7,000 feet above sea level.
The largest hot air balloon festival, or fiesta as they call it, takes place in Albuquerque every October. This only seems right since Albuquerque is home to over 300 hot air balloons and is considered the hot air balloon capital of the U.S.
New Mexico was named after the country that its land was purchased from by the U.S. making it the only U.S. state to be named that way.
Los Alamos is considered to be the birthplace of the first atomic bomb.
New Mexico has the lowest water-to-land ratio in the United States with only .002% being covered by a lake or a river.
The Rio Grande River runs the length of the state of New Mexico.
Hatch, NM is considered to be “Green Chile capital of the world”.
Grants, NM produced most of the uranium used during the post-World War II and Cold War
Smokey the Bear was real! He was just a cub when he was found in a tree during a forest fire in 1950. Several years later, Smokey became the national symbol of fire safety
The breakfast burrito was invented at Tia Sophia’s , a Santa Fe restaurant.
New Mexico has more cattle and other livestock than people.
The novel Ben-Hur was written by Lew Wallace while he was serving as territorial Governor of New Mexico.
Arts, Crafts, and Recipes
Enjoy a meal of breakfast burritos
Make a replica of the homes much like the Taos Pueblo community
Create art the Georgia O’Keeffe way
Learn how to paint a desert landscape
Learn about Urnaium
Build a desert biome in a jar
Learn about the Aztec community through several videos that take you on a tour of the site.
Try making an Aztec house in Minecraft
New Mexico Resource List
Book Basket (Picture Books)
E is for Enchantment by Helen Foster
New Mexico by
Hot Foot Teddy: The True Story of Smokey Bear by Sue Houser
D is for Desert: A World Deserts Alphabet by Barbara Gowan
Lewis and Papa: Adventure on the Santa Fe Trail by Barbara Jossee
I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas
Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave by Monty Roessel
Book Basket (Non-Fiction)
New Mexico (From Sea to Shining Sea) by Therese De Angelis
What’s Great About New Mexico by Jenny Van Voorst
Life ina Pueblo by Amanda Bishop
The Pueblo by Kevin Cunningham
Georgia O’Keeffe (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia
The Lost World of the Anasazi by Peter Lourie
Hot Air Balloons by Alisa Spindler
Cactus Desert by Donald M. Silver
Cartooning for Kids by Mike Artell
Pluto: Dwarf Planet by Christine Taylor-Butler
Book Basket (Chapter Books)
Geronimo (Childhood of Famous Americans) by George E. Stanley
Geronimo by Joseph Bruchac
Clyde Tombaugh and the Search for Planet X by Margaret K. Wetterer (out of print but may be available at your library)
Red Dirt Jessie by Anna Myers
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
I suggest creating a “unit study book basket” (a laundry basket will do) to fill with books from the book basket lists. You can use these books in your instructional time, for reading aloud, or for reading time for your students. Some of the nonfiction books have activities, experiments, and other hands-on learning opportunities to enrich your unit study.
Watch this time-lapse video of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
See how hot air ballons are made
Learn the real physics of hot air balloons
Visit the Kid’s Corner on the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website
Did you see something important I missed? Share in the comments and I may add it!